Health Information

Retrograde cystography

Retrograde cystography


Cystography - retrograde; Cystogram

Retrograde cystography is a detailed x-ray examination of the bladder in which contrast dye is placed into the bladder through the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    You lie on the table. A numbing medicine is applied to the opening to your urethra, and a flexible tube (catheter) is inserted through your urethra into the bladder. Contrast dye flows through the tube until your bladder is full or you tell the technician that your bladder feels full.

    When the bladder is full, you are placed in different positions so that different x-rays can be taken. A final x-ray is taken once the catheter is removed and you have emptied your bladder. This reveals how well your bladder empties.

    The total test takes about 30 - 60 minutes.

  • How to Prepare for the Test

    You must sign an informed consent form. You must empty your bladder before the test. You will be asked questions to determine if you may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye, or if you have a current infection that could make inserting the catheter difficult.

  • How the Test Will Feel

    You may feel some pressure when the catheter is inserted. You will feel an urge to urinate when the contrast dye enters the bladder. The person performing the test will stop the flow when the pressure becomes uncomfortable. The urge to urinate will continue throughout the test.

    After the test, the area where the catheter was placed may feel sore when you urinate.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    Your doctor may order this test to:

    • Examine the bladder for problems such as holes or tears
    • Determine if you have:
      • Abnormal connections between bladder tissue (bladder fistulae)
      • Bladder stones
      • Pouch-like sacs called diverticula on the walls of the bladder or urethra
      • Tumor of the bladder
      • Urinary tract infection
      • Vesicoureteric reflux
    • Learn why you keep having repeated bladder infections
  • Normal Results

    The bladder appears normal.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean

    • Bladder stones
    • Blood clots
    • Diverticula
    • Infection or inflammation
    • Lesions
    • Vesicoureteric reflux
  • Risks

    There is some risk of infection from the catheter. Symptoms may include:

    • Burning during urination (after the first day)
    • Chills
    • Decreased blood pressure (hypotension)
    • Fever
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased breathing rate

    The amount of radiation exposure is similar to that of other x-rays. As with any radiation exposure, nursing or pregnant women should not usually have this test, unless it is determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • Considerations

    In males, testicles are shielded from the x-rays.

    This test is not performed very often, but is usually combined with CT Scan imaging for better resolution. Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) or cystoscopy is more frequently used.

Related Information

  X-rayDiverticulitisReflux nephropathy...Urinary tract infe...Bladder stonesBlood clots     Urinary tract infe...


Fulgham PF, Bishoff JT. Urinary tract imaging: Basic principles. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 4. 


Review Date: 10/9/2012  

Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School.

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